- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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The last time junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson was in the ring, he was the bug and big banger Lucas Matthysse was the windshield.
Matthysse blew Peterson away in stunningly easy fashion in May in Atlantic City, N.J., dropping him twice in the second round and two more times in the third for a pulverizing third-round knockout victory. Peterson had lost before, been dropped before, but never had he been outright destroyed like that.
Yet despite such a crushing defeat, Peterson still holds one of the 140-pound world titles because the fight was a nontitle bout, fought at a contract weight of 141 pounds -- one over the division limit -- because Matthysse wanted it that way. He didn't want to vacate his interim belt, believing it would give him leverage for a fight with Danny Garcia, one of the full titleholders for whom Matthysse was the mandatory challenger.
Peterson was willing to defend his title against Matthysse, but when their matchup became a nontitle bout, it left him with a mandatory defense obligation in his next fight, which will come against Dierry Jean on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT; preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 ET/PT) at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C., Peterson's hometown.
"I can show you how I come back from a knockout better than I can tell you," Peterson said at Thursday's final news conference. "You'll see Saturday night. You just have to forget it. It can happen to the best of us. Even basketball players shoot air-ball free throws. Sometimes that's just what happens. I didn't have a hard time dealing with it, just seemed like the media did."
For many fighters, rebounding from such a rough knockout would mean facing a soft-touch opponent, perhaps away from the spotlight of the main event.
But Peterson defiantly said he isn't giving his knockout loss a second thought, doesn't care about it and cares about his title even less.
"Getting over the loss, that happened in one day," said Peterson, who will be making his second title defense. "Who cares about the knockout? It's part of boxing. That's what happens. You pick yourself up and you move on. At this point, it's in the past. Who cares?
"As a fighter, you have to block that out and you keep moving. As far as me moving on, I'm a fighter. At the end of the day, I had to focus on [Saturday]. I train hard, give it my all and we go out there and we fight. It's always going to be the same with me. Who cares about what happened in the last fight?"
In the scheduled 10-round co-feature, unbeaten junior middleweight prospect Jermell Charlo (22-0, 11 KOs), 23, of Houston, will step up in competition to face former two-time middleweight world title challenger Gabriel Rosado (21-7, 13 KOs), 28, of Philadelphia, who is dropping back down in weight after going winless in three middleweight bouts in 2013.
Peterson (31-2-1, 16 KOs) freely admits that the real champion at junior welterweight is Garcia, who outpointed Matthysse last May to retain his unified belts and lay claim to status as the best 140-pounder in the world.
So what about the fact that Peterson still holds a belt? Well, let's allow him to answer that.
"Who cares?" said Peterson, who doesn't feel much like a champion these days after what happened in his previous fight.
"At the end of the day, the belts mean nothing. It means a lot to [the media], but it means nothing to me. I just love to fight," continued Peterson, who had one of his belts stripped in early 2012 following a positive test for elevated levels of testosterone just a few weeks before a big-money rematch with Amir Khan, which was canceled. "I go, I bust my ass in the gym, I go and I fight. I give it my all in the ring. Who cares about who's No. 1, who's No. 2, who's pound-for-pound, who has this belt, who has that belt? I couldn't care less about that.
"So whether you look at me as a champion or not, it doesn't make a difference. The only thing it was is, we fought at a catchweight, and me having a belt allows me to have this opportunity to fight Dierry Jean. That's it. That's all that belt means."
Jean, however, has a different perspective.
"This fight means everything for me," Jean said. "I've been working so hard to get there, and now I'm there. It's to go conquer the belt. It's a lot for me. I think I deserve it now. I work so hard, from the bottom of my heart. So now it's time to go get that belt. It's my time now. Lamont did his time. Now it's my time. I'm going to go out there and go grab that belt.
"We are doing everything the way we should be, as if we are home. We are not here as tourists. We are here to get the job done, to take that belt and go back home with it. Look, I am here on a mission to bring that belt back. And having met Lamont, nothing changes."
Peterson may not care about the belt or the fact that he got knocked silly in his previous fight, but a rough KO can have an impact on a fighter's career.
Had Peterson beaten Matthysse, he likely would be earning in the high six figures, if not low seven figures, for Saturday's fight against Jean (25-0, 17 KOs), a native of Haiti, who has lived in Montreal since he was 10 and began boxing at 18.
The loss to Matthysse, however, left Peterson's fight with Jean significantly devalued. When the sides couldn't make a deal, it went to a purse bid and Golden Boy, Peterson's promoter, won the right to promote the fight for just $156,000. That means that Peterson, entitled to the titleholder's 75 percent of the winning offer, will earn $117,000 -- a fraction of what he would have earned had he beaten Matthysse.
"Yeah, of course I know that," said Peterson, who turns 30 on Friday. "It's not my first loss, so I know that. It has happened before, but at the end of the day, as a fighter, my mentality has to be, 'Who cares?' Who's going to sit around thinking about their last fight if it didn't go the way they wanted it to go?
"The best thing to do is to pick you up, forget about it, move on. I know I can still fight. I'm still a good fighter. I have to forget about it."
Barry Hunter, Peterson's trainer, manager and father figure, said Peterson has the right attitude.
"Lamont may have a slight chip on his shoulder, but it's all business with him," Hunter said. "A lot of the times, even though he's reserved, when he gets close to a fight, he does get anxious. We see it in the gym, and I spoke to him and just told him to never act like anyone but himself. This is something that we haven't seen before, but he's been resilient, so I won't worry about it."
Peterson will face a fighter in Jean, 31, who isn't well known and doesn't have a deep résumé.
"People have said that Dierry has not fought the level of opposition that Lamont has, but he has fought very good opposition," said Camille Estephan, Jean's promoter. "Everyone needs a chance, and this is ours. We're going to grab it and run with it."
Jean will be fighting outside of Quebec for only the third time. In his second fight outside his home province, he came to the United States and scored an impressive fourth-round knockout of Cleotis "Mookie" Pendarvis last May in the title eliminator that earned him the mandatory position.
"I think he's a good little fighter," Hunter said on Jean. "I'm not a huge film guy. We usually make adjustments in fights, but based off what I saw, he's not great in one area but he's good in a lot of areas. He's hungry and he wants a title, so it should make for a good fight."
If Lamont Peterson is bothered by the fact he was laid out in his previous bout, he isn't letting on. The junior middleweight titleholder is pressing ahead, shrugging off his KO loss and throwing himself into Saturday's defense against Dierry Jean.